At the beginning of the 20th century, when 12-string guitars first appeared in the United States, the instruments were considered novelty items, curiosities, freaks of guitar making that were beneath the dignity of serious companies like Martin and Gibson. But when Blind Willie McTell picked up a Stella 12-string in 1927, and then basically never put it down, the instrument was suddenly legitimized.
A folk singer named Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had actually made the Stella 12-string his own earlier, in 1912, but Lead Belly had so many scrapes with the law and spent so much time in prison that he wouldn’t get a chance to popularize the ringing tones of the 12-string until the 1930s and ’40s. Even then, his biggest hit, “Good Night Irene,” came after his death in 1949.
Pete Seeger and the Weavers kept the 12-string sound alive until the 1960s, when groups like the Rooftop Singers (“Walk Right In”) made it the go-to instrument on the commercial folk scene. Gibson was ready with its B-45 in 1961 and its B-25 in 1962, while Martin got on board a bit later with its D12-20 in 1964 and D12-35 in 1965.
The loudest noise in 12-strings, though, was made by Rickenbacker, thanks to a custom, one-of-a-kind 12-string version of its 325 hollowbody electric guitar made in 1964 for John Lennon of the Beatles. George Harrison also became a Rickenbacker acolyte, playing his Rickenbacker 360 12-string on songs like "A Hard Day’s Night."
One musician who liked that sound a lot was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Reportedly, he bought a 360-12 after seeing the movie named after of the famous Beatles song. He went on to play a 12-string on one of the Byrds’ biggest hits, “Turn Turn Turn.”
By the late 1970s, newer companies like Taylor made acoustic 12-strings part of their lines. Once again, a key musician would cement the instrument's sound in our collective soundtrack. In this case it was Neil Young who, while vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second, and Taylor subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps."
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Audio Beat: Jamaai - Tunes of all huesThe Hindu, March 6th
We play 12 string guitar' is sung by Suchith Suresan, Ranina Reddy, David Sim and Dhina. 'Sengaal Narai' is a beautiful rendered by Haricharan and Anitha. 'Nanba' sung by Santhosh and Sreesha is an ode to friendship and the number will remain on your ...Read more
The Holy Trinity: GenesisPopMatters, March 6th
And while we're at it, the generous support of Steve Hackett (guitars), Michael (not Mike, yet) Rutherford (bass, 12 string guitar, etc.) and especially Tony Banks (all manners of keyboards) is ceaselessly energetic and ideal for the material...Read more
Phyllis Madonna's Musical Revue and 27th Annual Fashion Show to raise ...New Times SLO, March 6th
Väsen's music is a uniquely beautiful combination of the traditional sounds of the viola and nyckelharpa (a keyed fiddle unique to Sweden), and the more modern sounds of alternatively tuned 12-string guitar.” By popular demand, Unfinished Business ...Read more
Cañon Rose Acoustic SocietyCanon City Daily Record, March 5th
Established in 2012, Widowhood Effect consists of Brandon Benoint on guitar and bass, Russell Basques on guitar, banjo, glockenspiel and 12-string guitar while James Curtis plays the guitar and vocals. "The Widowhood Effect is a band committed on ...Read more
Blues guitarist Parr coming to The ArkLa Crosse Tribune, March 5th
A self-taught musician of traditional roots music with influences of Charley Patton, Lightnin' Hopkins, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, Parr plays an 1890 fretless open-back banjo, a National resonator guitar and a 12-string guitar in the Piedmont style...Read more
Introducing: Phantom ShipsThe Portland Mercury (blog), February 28th
Tomorrow night (Saturday, March 1) marks the first-ever show from Phantom Ships, a new four-piece whose members include Steve Turner (Mudhoney) on 12-string guitar and vocals, Evan Railton (Swords, Blue Giant) on drums, James Adair (Dolorean) on ...Read more
The history of the electric bass part four: how many strings?MusicRadar.com, February 26th
The sixties also saw the rise in popularity of the 12-string guitar so it's hardly surprising that an 8-string bass should appear. One of the best of these is the Rickenbacker, which has appeared in various guises over the years. The semi hollow bodied...Read more
Vintage Vault: 1966 Fender Electric XIIPremier Guitar, February 7th
Email. Tweet. A sweet 1966 custom-color Fender Electric XII nestles against a '64 Bassman and spring-equipped, all-tube Fender Reverb unit. The latter defined the sound of surf-rock guitar. The 12-string guitar was never as popular as the regular 6-string...Read more